This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada, which closed in 2021.

Flu Symptoms: How To Tell If You Have The Flu

The flu, colds and H1N1 can look and feel very similar.
young female in bed at home...
young female in bed at home...

As many people return to work for the first time in 2014, medical professionals are warning that right now could be the most likely time to get the flu.

As more than 600 people were diagnosed with H1N1 (or swine flu) in Alberta, flu vaccination clinics were flooded, while in Ontario, officials are saying up to 36 per cent of flu cases are actually H1N1. And this could only be the start.

Dr. Allison McGeer, head of infection control at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, told the Canadian Press, Alberta's outbreak may be done, and Ontario's is at its peak right now.

The main difference between the seasonal flu and H1N1 is its effect on the lungs. As the Globe and Mail reported, while it is rare for the flu to move into the lungs, with H1N1, it can move down and infect the lungs, potentially causing a far more serious illness.

But for many people, it's hard to tell whether they have a cold, the flu or H1N1. Take a look at these symptoms to see what you're dealing with, and be sure to seek medical help when necessary.

Do I Have The Flu?


Feeling feverish or having a fever of 100°F or higher can be an indicator for the flu or H1N1 virus, though not everyone with the flu will get a fever. Fevers are unlikely with a common cold.

Body Aches

Feeling achy all over or getting a headache is another symptom of the flu or H1N1, and not generally associated with getting a cold. This tends to show as more general aches, as opposed to those confined to one area.

Nausea, Vomiting Or Diarrhea

Nausea is the most symptom of the flu, and less likely to occur with a cold. However, if you're vomiting continuously, this can indicate a more severe strain of the flu, and you should seek medical help.

Sore Throat

A sore throat is usually the first indicator of the beginning of illness, whether it's a cold, the flu or worse.


Coughing occurs when one has a cold or the flu, though if it worsens, that can indicate a more severe strain, like H1N1.


An intense feeling of exhaustion, like not being able to get out of bed, is a sign that you have the flu or H1N1. This does not usually occur with a cold.


Chills can occur as a result of many kinds of bacterial and viral illnesses, including colds, the flu and H1N1.

Runny Nose

Though a runny nose is most closely associated with a cold, it can also be part of having the flu or H1N1. Be sure to have plenty of tissues on hand to keep germs from spreading.


Dizziness is not a normal symptom for a cold or flu, and should be treated with seriousness.


Dehydration is a serious risk when you're ill, either because you feel too sick to drink or eat, or you've been vomiting and/or having diarrhea. Being dehydrated can indicate H1N1, and you should seek medical attention.

Pain In Stomach Or Chest

Feeling pains in your stomach or chest while or immediately after you have the flu can indicate a serious complication, like pneumonia. Seek medical help immediately.

Discoloured Lips

Discoloured lips can indicate a lung infection, which poses a serious health risk. Be sure to seek medical attention immediately.

Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact